Verizon, Netflix continue net neutrality war of words

Verizon, Netflix continue net neutrality war of words

Summary: Level 3 had its say on how Verizon was slowing Netflix videos, and now Verizon is firing back. At the same time, Netflix lashed out at ISPs for slowing its traffic.


Last week, Mark Taylor, VP of Content and Media at Level 3, a global tier 1 business and consumer Internet provider, accused Verizon of deliberately slowing down Netflix videos. Those are fighting words!

Netflix ISP Traffic June 2014
No matter who you blame for Verizon's slow broadband, Netflix's numbers show that its video traffic travels at a comparative crawl on Verizon.

So it should come as no surprise that on July 21, Verizon fired back. A blog posting by David Young, Verizon's VP of Federal Regulatory Affairs, put the responsibility for Netflix's slow speeds squarely on Level 3's shoulders.

Young wrote, "Last week, Level 3 decided to call attention to their congested links into Verizon’s network. Unlike other Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), which pay for connections into ISP networks to ensure they have adequate capacity to deliver the content they have been hired to deliver, Level 3 insists on only using its existing settlement-free peering links even though, as Level 3 surprisingly admits in their blog, these links are experiencing significant congestion. Level 3’s solution? Rather than buy the capacity they need, Level 3 insists that Verizon should add capacity to the existing peering link for additional downstream traffic even though the traffic is already wildly out of balance."

Young's logic for this: In a 2005 conflict between Level 3 and Cogent over network peering, Level 3 refused to continue a free peering relationship because "Cogent was using far more of Level 3's network, far more of the time, than the reverse....We decided that it was unfair for us to be subsidizing Cogent’s business."

In Internet peering, two ISPs agree to send and receive traffic from each other without charging any fees. This concept is part of the foundation of network neutrality. 

According to Young,  today's Verizon and Level 3 dispute is essentially the same as the 2005 conflict between Cogent and Level 3. He continued: "So what has changed for Level 3? Unfortunately, they are now the one 'trying to get a free ride on someone else’s network' and failing to 'keep the interest of their customers paramount.' "

While Level 3 is "passing on commenting" on this latest shot from Verizon, the two cases aren't the same. The Cogent/Level 3 conflict was between two backbone Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In the case of Level 3 and Verizon, Level 3 is the backbone ISP providing high-speed, 10Gbps connections to a consumer/business ISP, Verizon. In short, the first case was between ISP backbone providers, while the Level 3/Verizon case is between a backbone provider and a downstream ISP. 

Young concluded that "Verizon and Netflix have found a way to avoid the congestion problems that Level 3 is creating by its refusal to find 'alternative commercial terms.' We are working diligently on directly connecting Netflix content servers into Verizon’s network so that we both can keep the interests of our mutual customers paramount."

Netflix decline to comment on this, but they announced in April an interconnect agreement with Verizon.  Netflix isn't happy about it, though.

In a memo to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, said "Our focus on strong net neutrality, including interconnection, is about preventing large ISPs from holding our joint customers hostage with poor performance to extract payments from us, other Internet content firms, and Internet transit suppliers such as Level 3 and Cogent."

As for Verizon's work on directly connecting Netflix servers into Verizon network, presumably using Netflix's Open Connect CDN system, it doesn't seem to be having any positive effect yet. Netflix's ISP Speed Index shows that Verizon FiOS is continuing to fall in the speed ratings and Verizon DSL is the slowest of all major national ISP services.

No matter who you blame for these network slowdowns, the simple truth is that Verizon's customers are not getting the best possible Netflix experience.

Related Stories:

Topics: Networking, Broadband, Verizon

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  • none of these carriers are good

    Its as if they were in a competition to see who can be the worst.

    I have been on Comcast and AT&T in the past ... sux. My dad has TWC... oh the horrors... Verizon ... just look at the table above.

    They all went to the same training class... how to give crappy customer service and succeed in a regulated monopolistic industry without really trying.
  • Y'all suck!

    ISPs that is, so shut up and do something to fix it.

    Service continues to get worse, and prices to the consumer continue to go up? Explain to me how this is good for anyone, except maybe stockholders?
  • balance of settlement free peering points

    What would be good for the public to see is the balance of traffic going to and from Tier 1 ISP's. That would put the conversation in a better context.
    • Competition would be even better for the public

      Verizon customers want Netflix. They sign up for better packages to stream video. Due to a lack of competition, Verizon can ignore what the customer wants.

      This dispute will at least let those who have options ditch Verizon for another ISP.
  • Only my experiences

    Back in the late 1980s I was in charge of buying computers at my company and Verizon had the corporate contract (they had bought the IBM retail computer stores). They would charge 33-50% more than the going price, take a month to deliver it, and often substitute cheap clones to see if you would reject it for what you had been waiting for. When you called them on it they would say we got the corporate contract, you have no choice (boy were they mad when they discovered otherwise).

    Then Verizon added call waiting (modem disconnect technology) and other phone services to everyone in our area code without notification because it was "free". Then after two months of "free" service they started billing for the surreptitiously added services, if you didn't call to have them cancelled. In those days monthly bills were larger and varied due to long distance so it wasn't easy to notice that you were now paying for a bunch of unwanted services. They made a killing.

    Then Verizon moved into browbeating customers into cellphone contracts even though people can get the same Verizon phone service packaged as non-contract Straighttalk through Walmart.

    Then with Verizon's previous history of always misusing their monopoly, they got the Supreme Court to give them free reign to engage in any shady practice they desire.
    • ORLY?

      The name "Verizon" didn't exist until the year 2000 according to . I'm with a small rural telecom, so I don't have a dog in this race, but your tale here has some holes.
      • Xfinity is to Comcast as Verizon is to Bell Atlantic

        Verizon didn't just pop into existence. I remember when our Bell Atlantic service changed to Verizon in Virginia. It seems like it was in the late 90s, but 2000 may be right.
  • of course there is more traffic coming to Verizon.

    The bulk of there subscribers are consumers who don't host sites. If you look at Verizon consumer grade offerings, most of them have far lower down speeds than up. It would be incredibly difficult for their customers to send more data than they receive given that fact.
    • bah. no edit on zdnet...

      That should have said "far faster down speeds than up. .."
  • The whole debate is this:

    Picture an island city with only one road in and one road out. There is one company outside the island that is very, very popular and only offers their product by mail.

    80% of the incoming traffic comes from shipping from that one company, and it is clogging up the roads.

    As mayor of the island and the guy in charge of the roads, what do you do?

    Do you put the burden of paying for maintenance of the roads on *everybody equally?*
    Or do you put the burden of paying for the maintenance on *the people who use it most?*

    That's essentially what the debate is. Netflix accounts for a huge fraction of used bandwidth. Bandwidth isn't free. All the carriers argue that Netflix should either be throttled in its ability to suck up bandwidth, or that Netflix should pay in proportion to the bandwidth they use. Netflix says it's everyone else's responsibility to pay for it.

    Trying to make it more complicated than that is disguising the real issue -- especially Republicans who think the issue is *really* about trying to block out conservative media sites.
    Jacob VanWagoner
    • Mostly

      But you forgot to add that the road is a toll bridge, and the mayor sold everybody on the island a monthly pass that gets them X deliveries, incorrectly assuming that nobody would actually use that many. Now that they are, he's complaining that everybody's deliveries are coming from a single company.

      There's plenty of blame to go around here.
    • Nice metaphor but. . .

      Adding to @kylehutson's comment; the delivery company is not coming to the island to drive around looking at the pretty houses; they are being asked to come to the island to make those deliveries. So really the island dwellers are the ones that should be paying for it. And now you have @kylehutson's perfect retort, the toll bridge operator (the mayor in this example) sold monthly passes for unlimited deliveries.
      So unfortunately this puts pressure on the Verizons of the world to move to usage-based pricing; which is not something folks in the USA are appreciative. Hence we get all-you-can-eat buffets (for real food and other consumables).
  • FCC in their pockets

    Nothing is going to change (with ISP's) until REAL competition enters the market. I wish Google would buy one of them and show what can actually be done for less. We don't need gigabyte speed but 1/3 of that is fine for most consumers.
  • How about Satellite Internet

    If Netflix needs to go after any ISP that is hurting its business. It needs to be satellite internet. I would love to become a Netflix user and my 3 other neighbors would to, but with satellite being our only option it makes that an impossible task. I am on the second highest package and would run out of internet usage in less then a couple days if I watch Netflix movies. So Netflix is being hurt more by HughesNet Wildblue and Exede, so much more then Verizon.
  • In other words, David Young lied in his original blog article?

    So David Young of Verizon implied in his original blog article that Level 3 caused congestion at the interconnection between Level 3 and Verizon border router. He basically said Netflix chose a pipeline (e.x. Level 3) that is not able to deliver enough capacity. His claims made Level 3 sound technically incompetent.

    But after Level 3 thoroughly detroyed his claim, he is now saying Verizon has not provided extra capacity needed for Netflix streaming because of peering disagreement with Level 3?

    In other words, *Verizon is causing congestion* by refusing to provide additional capacity to their LA's border router because they think Level 3 need to pay for extra capacity.

    Whether Level 3 should pay more or not is a different issue.

    David Young should have simply stated that FIOS customers in LA are not able to get good Netflix streamming because Verizon has refused to provide more capacity to their LA's border router that interconnects with Level 3 because of peering disagreement.
  • You can't handle the truth!

    The simple reality is that Verizon is a monopoly in many of the locations it serves, and so is acting like one. It is screwing its own customers in the hope that someone else will throw money its way.

    Verizon is getting pretty good money from its network users, but of course more is never enough. It wants to control what they see as well as how they access it. It wants them to use Verizon TV and FlexView, not Netflix. So even when Level 3 offers to provide the hardware to get over the 40gbps bottleneck in Southern California, Verizon keeps saying "it's not us, it's them".

    Verizon's customers have paid for the ability to access "all of the above". They don't pay to access some small corner of the Internet, like AOL's offerings back in the 90s. If Verizon cannot deliver what it has promised to its customers, it needs to fix its network.

    This is why net neutrality must be legislated. The only other alternative is to force companies like Verizon and AT&T to split, as was done with the phone companies. Force competition into the ISP market; stop the mergers; make companies deliver what they have promised; refuse to accept "he said, she said" excuses.

    P.S. ZDNet, please get rid of some of these trackers your site uses. Twenty six is way too many, and I need to know which ones I can block while still being able to post comments.